Between Worlds




To our readers,

During the summer of 1998 reporters and photographers from the Juneau Empire and its sister newspapers in Alaska -- the Kenai Peninsula Clarion and Alaska Journal of Commerce -- traveled the expanse of Alaska, talking to people in villages, towns and cities. They were looking for the answer to these questions: What has been the result of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act? Has the Native corporate structure set up by ANCSA been a success? Have Alaska Natives benefited from ANCSA? And how has the creation of Native corporations changed the cultures of Alaska's Native people?

In their travels to dozens of towns and villages, reporters talked to hundreds of people from all walks of life, seeking the viewpoints of Natives, anthropologists, economists and historians across the state, along with the opinions of Native corporation executives and everyday shareholders.

The passage of ANCSA was a watershed moment for Alaskans. We can never know how the history of the state would have evolved otherwise, but we know that ANCSA allowed the trans-Alaska pipeline to be built and allowed Natives to enter the world of business with their own corporations.

We also know now that, for many Natives in Alaska, ANCSA has had little effect on their lives and they struggle to retain important aspects of their traditions, languages and cultures in a world that seems to spin faster all the time.

Unemployment, social problems and Third World sanitation conditions continue to plague villages across the state. Education of the young and preservation of Native culture are also ongoing challenges for Native communities.

The result of our inquiry is in this special report. The answer to the question, "What has been the result of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act?" is that it is still a work in progress. In its 25-year existence, it has created both opportunities and problems for Alaska's Native people, but the full effect of this experiment in restitution has yet to be played out.

A project of this magnitude is only as good as its team members. A special thanks to Suzanne Downing and Yvonne Beasley for their leadership efforts, and to the reporters, photographers and editors for their perseverance and high standards of excellence.

Finally, we thank William S. Morris III for having the vision to launch this endeavor, and Morris Communications Corp. for its generous underwriting of it.

In the spirit of creating a dialogue on the results of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, we look forward to readers' comments about this report.

Sincerely,  

John Winters
Publisher, The Juneau Empire